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Goodbye to the Ivory Tower: from Laboratory to Corporate Communications

By Judith Jenner

Three academics talk about their move from academia to the private sector.

Goodbye to the Ivory Tower: from Laboratory to Corporate CommunicationsKerstin Crusius (39): "I was never one of those boffins who take a question and disappear into a laboratory with it for years. I like variety."
Kerstin Crusius's thesis supervisor was disappointed. "You're selling your soul", he told her when she left the public sector to take up a post in pharmaceutical research at Schering. Previously she had conducted research and completed her doctorate at the Institute for Applied Tumour Virology of the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg. Her future there seemed far from bright: whether her research project on human papillomaviruses would continue to be funded was unclear, and her contract was temporary. So Kerstin Crusius applied for a job at the "Enabling Technologies" institute of Schering AG in Berlin as part of a postdoc fellowship with the Schering Foundation, and began working there in June 2000.

The biochemist had already completed a work placement at the company when she was a student at the Freie Universität. Following the postdoc programme she stayed on as a research group leader; from 2003 to 2005 she conducted research for Schering in California. Today, Kerstin Crusius has left research for corporate communications, where she is responsible for the external communication of research and development topics.

"Instead of dealing intensively with more or less a single topic, as I would in research, I now take the bird's eye view", she says. The language of the private sector was something Kerstin Crusius first had to get used to: "target validation" - this phrase suddenly turned up in every meeting. But she finds it fascinating how the individual departments of the company interact like clockwork gears, bringing new medications to patent readiness and then to market.

She is pretty certain that she won't be returning to academia. The better salary, the safe job, the development opportunities - which are not confined to research -, these things would not be available to her at a university without a professorship, she believes. "Also, what matters for a career in academia is that you publish", and that's more difficult in a company, she explains, because day-to-day business defines one's work. "If you don't want to spend your entire life in research, but would instead like to try out other areas too, moving to a company conducting research offers a wide range of perspectives", says Kerstin Crusius. She certainly hasn't ever regretted her decision.

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